Guide to the Divorce Process in Tennessee
It's never an easy decision to end your marriage. The divorce process in Tennessee can be overwhelming to people who aren't familiar with courtrooms and legal jargon. You may not understand how to begin filing for divorce, or you may want to understand how to ask a specific question about divorcing your spouse. This guide can give you the tools you need to direct your research and help you seek further guidance.
Complaint and Answer
The legal divorce process in Tennessee begins when either spouse files a complaint for divorce. The complaint must contain both the grounds for the divorce and the relief being sought by the plaintiff spouse (the spouse making the complaint). After the complaint is served, the defendant spouse (the spouse the complaint is served to) generally drafts a response which also incorporates grounds and relief.
In Tennessee, grounds for a divorce can include both fault and no-fault grounds. Fault allegations do not generally affect the division of property in a divorce very much, so the divorce process in Tennessee is usually handled with no-fault grounds.
Relief is an all-encompassing term referring to what is being requested by the parties in the divorce. One or both spouses might request alimony, child custody, child support, use of the marital home, and so on.
Generally, a complaint for divorce is answered by the other spouse. If the defendant spouse does not answer the complaint within 60 days (90 if you have minor children) the judge can award a divorce by default. This generally gives the plaintiff spouse whatever they asked for in the complaint, so refusing to answer the complaint will not deny your spouse a divorce—on the contrary, they'll generally get anything they wanted.
Another time when the divorce process in Tennessee registers a divorce 'by default' is when one spouse cannot be located after a reasonable search. You may have to seek out your spouse by publishing a public notice in the newspaper closest to his or her last known address. The publication process can be expensive and is legally tricky, so consulting a divorce lawyer may help you with this aspect of the divorce process in Tennessee.
Spouses who cannot agree on all aspects of their divorce have plenty of time to settle in Tennessee. The state will not grant a divorce until 60 days have passed, for couples without children (couples with children have to wait 30 days longer). This gives divorcing couples a chance to agree to a marital settlement.
A settlement happens when you are able to agree on all the issues in your divorce, including parental responsibilities and the division of all marital property. The divorce process in Tennessee is much easier and cheaper if you settle. Very few divorce cases actually go to trial in the state—between expert witness fees and additional legal bills, most divorcing couples choose to settle even if it takes a trained mediator or arbitrator to help the negotiations along.